Extra Research for Season 4 – Episode 12 – Afterlife Sentence
Patrick J. Whelan, (1840-1869) was born in Galway, British Ireland and moved to Canada around 1865. In Ireland and also in Canada he worked as a tailor. At the time of the assassination he was working as a merchant tailor in Ottawa.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee (1825-1868) was one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation. D’Arcy (as he was called) was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1842. He then emigrated to Montréal in early 1857 and in December of that year he was elected as a representative for Montréal. At the time of his assassination he was working with John A. Macdonald as the Minister of Agriculture, Immigration, and Statistics. In the days leading up to his assassination he had a premonition of a violent death and even John A. Macdonald cautioned him about being careful.
Early on the morning of 7 April 1868, after a rather long parliamentary session, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was assassinated just outside of his home. He was shot through the back of the neck and the bullet exited through his mouth shattering some teeth and was found embedded in the door.
Patrick Whelan’s trial started in September 1868 and lasted 8 days. Even with most of the evidence against him being circumstantial and as some say, biased against him for his alleged involvement with the Fenians, he was found guilty on 15 September 1868 and sentenced to hang. On being told his sentence Whelan said, “All that sentence, my Lord, cannot make me guilty.”
Over 5,000 people attended Whelan’s hanging on 11 February 1869, Canada’s last public hanging. Patrick J. Whelan’s body was buried on the grounds of the Carleton County Gaol. A Catholic ceremony to consecrate a box of earth from the former prison was held In August 2002 and the box was then interred with his wife in her plot in Montréal.
Patrick’s remains are probably still buried in the ground of the Gaol and may be the reason his spirit is bound there. To this day Patrick maintains his innocence. If only we could find out the truth.
— Joanne Schiavoni
Photo credit: Scene of the crime, Thomas D’Arcy McGee’s boarding house door